Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced New Glenn, a new reusable rocket set to transport people and satellites into space, to be developed by his spaceflight company Blue Origin.
New Glenn was revealed to be taller than United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, their largest competitor. In contrast, the New Glenn is almost as tall as NASA’s Saturn V, which carried humans to the moon. The rocket is named after John Glenn, the fifth person to be in space and the first American to orbit the earth. Blue Origin is also the first company to successfully land a reusable rocket on a landing pad and managed to launch and land the same rocket two times in 2016.
Blue Origin still a contender in sustainable spaceflight
NASA had also worked with Blue Origin, offering a millionaire contract based on their progress in developing sustainable space travel. But NASA went ahead and chose to focus on working with SpaceX and Boeing instead.
Bezos decided to announce Blue Origin’s new line of rockets, as it also features an abort system to eject the crew capsule to circumvent accidents. Perhaps this decision was made due to SpaceX’s recent launch explosion, where Elon Musk asked the public to help find the source of the problem.
According to Bezos, New Glenn is 23 feet in diameter and is able to lift at least 3.85 million pounds of cargo. The two-stage and three-stage New Glenn rockets are 270 and 313 feet tall respectively. Bezos assures that New Glenn will be a major player in the future’s spaceflight industry. He also announced plans of releasing a new rocket to be called New Armstrong.
Blue Origin, contrary to SpaceX, does not reveal too much about their projects. It started in 2000 and performed its first test flight in 2006. NASA went ahead and funded the company as part of the Commercial Crew Program, but expectations dropped when Blue Origin suffered a loss of a spacecraft amid a launch test in 2011 due to flight instability.
Bezos’ company is currently racing against Elon Musk’s SpaceX for being the dominant company in developing sustainable space travel, although Blue Origin was the first to perform a landing on solid ground. Just one month after SpaceX’s first successful landing, Blue Origin sent its reused New Shepard rocket to space.
“We believe ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast.’ In the long run, deliberate and methodical wins the day, and you do things quickest by never skipping steps. This step-by-step approach is a powerful enabler of boldness and a critical ingredient in achieving the audacious,” stated Jeff Bezos.
Even if SpaceX is half a decade older than Blue Origin, it appears that investors and clients are looking at different alternatives other than SpaceX. The accident that occurred early September cost Facebook the destruction of their $200 million communications satellite, which was aimed at providing internet connection to remote villages in Africa. Entrepreneurs and scientists agree that developing a reliable reusable rocket will be the key for commercial spaceflight.